God Made Them Excellent

Today’s Reading: Daniel 1

Are you ready? A new season is ahead for us. God has a plan for each of us in the coming days but are we prepared for the opportunities He has before us? We have been chosen for a specific purpose. The future is unknown but we know whom we serve. What do we need to do TODAY to be ready for what He has for us TOMORROW? Let’s look at four young men who had no idea what was ahead for them yet were prepared to be used by God in a powerful way.

When the training period ordered by the king was completed, the chief of staff brought all the young men to King Nebuchadnezzar. The king talked with them, and no one impressed him as much as Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah. So they entered the royal service. Whenever the king consulted them in any matter requiring wisdom and balanced judgment, he found them ten times more capable than any of the magicians and enchanters in his entire kingdom. Daniel remained in the royal service until the first year of the reign of King Cyrus. – Daniel 1:18-21

Let’s consider what an incredible opportunity this was for these four young Jewish men. Jerusalem has been attacked and God’s people have been brought to Babylon where they will spend the next 70 years in exile. These Jewish families were allowed to live in peace and comfort in this new country but it did not take away the daily realization that they were most definitely in captivity. They could not leave and go home – they were strangers in a strange land.


The king ordered his chief of staff to bring to the palace some of the young men from Judah’s royal family and other noble families who were strong, healthy, and good-looking, as well as knowledgeable in every branch of learning – gifted with knowledge and good judgment (Daniel 1:3-4). These young men did not have to suddenly prepare themselves for this opportunity; it was given them because they were ready. They had spent their time learning and listening. They were already healthy and strong. They were ready, therefore they were chosen.


Now that they were in royal service to the king, he wanted their loyalty. He renamed them after Babylonian gods in order to redefine them. Daniel’s name meant “God is my judge” but the chief of staff renamed him Belteshazzar, “Bel protects his life.” Hananiah meant “the Lord is grace” but he was given the name Shadrach, “command of Aku”. Mishael, “who is God?” became Meshach “who is Aku?” Azariah, “the Lord helps”, became Abednego, “servant of Nebo” (1:7). Nebuchadnezzar was trying to redefine them but these young men never lost track of the God to whom they truly belonged – who was their judge, who defined “grace”, who would tell them what to do and who would help them.


The king wanted their loyalty so he treated all of the young men very well. They were given fine wine and delicious foods to eat (you know what they say – the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach). But the meats prepared were probably unclean by Jewish standards, using unclean meats such as pork. The custom in Babylon was to dedicate their wine to their gods so drinking the wine would have been disloyal to God.

This royal treatment was a way for King Nebuchadnezzar to win the loyalty of all of these young men – giving them a taste of what the world had to offer them, what the king could give them if they were loyal to him. Everyone else compromised their standards but these four young men remained loyal to the God of Israel. Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah chose a more excellent way, denying themselves the rich foods and choosing vegetables and water instead (1:8-16).

God blessed their faithfulness by making them men of excellence. God gave these young men an unusual aptitude for understanding every aspect of literature and wisdom. And God gave Daniel the special ability to interpret the meanings of visions and dreams (Daniel 1:17). No one impressed King Nebuchadnezzar more than these four young men. They were found to be ten times more capable than any of the others. They were found to be men of excellence.

I want to be a woman of excellence. That is my prayer. I want to be prepared for the opportunities God sends my way. I want to prepare myself – both physically and intellectually – so that I am ready to be used by God. When the world tries to win my loyalty, I want to remember to whom I belong and who is my judge, and choose what God has to offer me instead of what the world has to offer. When difficult times come, I want to remember the grace of God and that He is the One who will help me. I want to be ready.


God calls us to excel in who we are and in what we do, in our character and our actions. “Whatever you do, do well…” (Eccl. 9:12). Our pursuit of excellence cannot be of human effort for that will quickly become our own obsession for earthly significance. With excellence as our goal and our eyes focused on Jesus, the Spirit can work in us to produce character and spiritual maturity.

May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God. – Philippians 1:11

And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows. May he, as a result, make your hearts strong, blameless, and holy as you stand before God our Father when our Lord Jesus comes again with all his holy people. Amen. – 1 Thessalonians 3:12-13